The southern Rhône valley has been an agricultural paradise at least since the Phoenicians. Grape growing has benefited from the region’s sunny Mediterranean climate, varied soils and a range of altitudes and exposures. The modern wine industry in the area produces high quality fairly priced white, rosé, sweet and sparkling wines, but it’s their red wines that take the prize. These bottlings are blended from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault and nine other red and white varietals, although the first four are the most widely used. They’re characterized by delicious mixed ripe red and black berry fruit with earthy, leathery, licorice root and herbaceous notes. Their tannins are fine and acidity fresh. The best can age usefully for decades.
Basic Rhône wines, often mixtures of juice from a number of the region’s communes, are classed as “Côtes du Rhône.” Those from a particular named commune are more distinctive and, often, higher in quality (and price.) The best known (and costliest) come from Châteauneuf du Pape, where such examples as Beaucastel, Rayas and Vieux Telegraphe have achieved vinous superstar status. The next most renowned is Gigondas.
The name Gigondas is derived from the Latin “jocunditas,” meaning joy or pleasantness. It was applied to a Gallo-Roman village where life was good, as were the wines produced there. The vineyards are arrayed on the foothills of the striking Dentelles de Montmiraille where altitude can mitigate the intense summer heat, allowing for preservation of fresh acidity and focused fruit flavours. Red Gigondas will serve as “the monarch of the feast,” partnering beautifully with roast or braised meats. Good bottlings will age to mushroomy gingery glory over twenty years. Prices begin in the $25-$30 range!
Pierre Amadieu is among the most highly regarded wineries in Gigondas. Last fall Pierre’s grandson, Henri-Claude Amadieu, presented a seminar in Toronto to show off three different Gigondas red wines (and a Vinsobres red from another southern Rhône commune) made by his house. They were fairly priced delicious specimens.
Gigondas Romane Machotte Rouge 2012 ($28, score 90+) has a nose of deep black cherry and black berries fruit with wet stone note and rose petal nuances. The tannins are fine, firm and ripe with fresh acidity framing dep elegant fruit through a very long fruit and tannic finish with a mild bitter note and a faint oaky note on the finish.
Gigondas Domaine Grand Romane Rouge 2013 ($40, score 91+) has a very perfumed bouquet bright mixed black berry fruit with slightly pungent mineral and licorice root notes. It’s plush and velvety on the palate, fresh, and flaunts elegant luscious focused fruit with an elegant note. The finish is fine, long and astringent.
Gigondas Le Pas de L’Aigle Rouge 2012 (~$30, score 91) has a seriously dusty pungent mineral nose with mixed black fruit and licorice root peeking out. It’s mouth-watering, with fine firm ripe tannins, fresh acid and deep ripe fruit harmonized with mineral notes. They all coast through a long finely astringent finish with a toasty note at the end.
Vinsobres Les Paillats Rouge 2012 ($21, score 89+) was slightly rustic with focused black cherry blackberry fruit, a touch of black currant and faded rose petal and elegant mineral notes. The tannins are fine, firm and ripe with fresh acidity. The fruit is rich but serious. Fruit and tannin persist on the very long finish with a late kiss of oak.